My family is somehow a perfect image of today’s society. Everyone smokes except me, my mother and one of my cousin. The others smoke like firemen in training and that’s about 20 of them during family reunions, chain-smoking, the joy!
Well in my family and in society, in general, smoking, drinking and taking drugs are increasingly talked about and frowned upon but as a matter of public health, rarely as a matter of gregarious living. They still have a fairly high status of recognition for reasons I am mentioning below and try to complain about the smoking, drinking of drug taking of someone next to you and you will see the reaction: aggression because these drugs are taken mainly to relax and have fun. Stress = I need a cigarette and fun = Let’s have a drink. The recreational drugs…well the name speaks for itself.
Some will say something but it will require a strong personality as you will have to smile through the usual abuse of being “politically correct”, a “lefty”, “a kill-joy”, a “fascist”, a “Nazi” and within a minute a torrent of abuse will have put you in the same bag as vegetarians who are all “little Hitlers” who “want to force the whole world to live the same boring, funless life as theirs”. I am merely quoting.
In a capitalist society where work is necessary but abusive at best, it is therefore hated so there is some kind of entitlement when it comes to relaxing and hobbies: It’s my freedom to have fun so I am allowed to do whatever I like.
Unless it’s food.
When you dare to eat something between meals or have another serve of food, have two cupcakes instead of one, refuse to share a biscuit…Then you have to put up with a full investigation, which leads to the usual endless lecture from the smokers and drinkers about healthy eating. They will shows their flat stomach (with a grey smile and beaten nails), blow smoke in your face and tell you about the virtuous eating habits they managed to live by.
The unsolicited life-advice is nothing next to the usual patronising sneers that comes with it: “What are you doing? Why are you eating again? You are not really hungry, aren’t you? Are you in a hurry? No, because you were sucking up the food so fast, I thought you had a train to catch. You’re not hungry, you’re just greedy. It’s all about self-control, you know! Do you want to be fat and ugly all your life? Look at us, we’re very healthy, not an ounce of fat. No wonder you’re tired. No wonder you have headaches.” Sure, nothing to do with me working 14 hours/day and with my eyes stuck on two computers or my drunk roommate shouting all night…
It does not matter whether your smoke and force everybody to do the same. Ha, the lovely smell of cigarette smoke flirting with your nostrils as you are eating, the taste of tar it leaves on your pallet and the lovely perfume that runs deep in your clothes for the rest of day. It does not matter whether you drown your heart and brain in liquor up to the point of unspeakable rudeness, sexual insanity, undignified violence and bestiality because it’s only true way to relax and you deserve to relax after such a work week! And drugs…it does matter but two days ago, my mother was trying to convince my grandmother that she should try a joint at least once before she died because that’s fun, isn’t it?
All that drinking, smoking and taking drugs is comparably acceptable because they destroy you from the inside: blackening your lungs, eating you liver, melting your insides but you keep your good looks (longer than with binge eating at least) and that’s what matters, that’s how you judge how healthy is someone and so does my family. I am in the unhealthy one because I am obese. How many models eat cigarettes for lunch? It doesn’t matter because they’re skinny. Wow, look at that actor and that body, so rip, so healthy, and we find out he drinks and smokes…Who cares? Look at that six-pack!
I’ve never smoked, I have not drunk for year (I don’t need it, I don’t have any inhibitions to loosen) and the closest I have been to drugs was staying in a room where my brother was smoking a joint 10 years ago. No praise for this, just bad looks.
In England: “What?! You don’t drink? Are you a Muslim?” No, one needn’t be a Muslim to not drink! The idea that my non-drinking can only be because of an interdiction, not good will.
In France: ” You don’t drink wine?! You’re not a real French then…”
I always say I have enough issues at it is since my drug is food and it shows because I am obese. My weakness is eating and my love of cheese and cakes make me the perfect candidate for the inquisition on Fat and Sugar, the Devil Couple. Therefore I should eat my greens quietly and listening to the lectures of smoking and drinking people because they are here to help me, the thin people with grey skin under the Saint-Tropez tan. Here to help the poor, sick, fatty me out of the hands of Satan.
Also when it comes to drug, one had to sell the poison at some point so looks, image, symbolism and representation are everything. My great-aunt once said to me I should start smoking because it would make me look more handsome. She said having a cigarette help you socialise and holding one helps you never look like you are just standing there. My grand-father pushed my grand-mother to smoke because he thinks women are sexier when they smoke.
These people were born between 1930 and 1940 and they grew up with the images of American movie stars smoking, suave and languidly with sleepy eyes or soldiers strong and powerful holding cigarettes between battles. These people will tell you right now how ridiculous this forbidding of such pictures is but they did work. My ancestors’ brains are full of these pictures and ideas that smoking will make you ultimately attractive. Today, all kinds of poison-based drugs are cool, risk-taking, law-breaking, rule-pushing, sexy. If I don’t drink it’s because “I am social awkward”. It’s the bad boy effect, James Dean with a cigarette not with a doughnut!
Secondly, there is the acceptance of smoking, drinking and drugs as…well drugs! Everyone, but some daft gits here and there, is accepting the fact that they contain poison that are addictive and people who consume them have no problem admitting it because it’s part of the excuse: “I can’t stop, I am addicted, you don’t understand!”. I do! Because I have an addiction: food but it is met with the usual sneer that food is not addictive, it’s just me lacking the will to control myself. “It’s all about self-control”, again.
I used to argue back: “You can stop smoking from one day to another, end the temptation. It is hard but you needn’t smoke, or drink alcohol or take drugs to survive whereas you need to eat to survive so I can’t just stop eating, I have to relearn how to eat properly and that’s harder because temptation is always here. Where you need a cigarette you have the choice between smoking or not, when I need to eat I have the choice between making a salad or cutting some cheese….Guess what I am going for.”
However, there is no point, these people do not want to hear it. It goes against their views of them as victims of terrible drugs against which they cannot possibly fight when I am just a victim of myself and should grow up. It reminds me too much of secondary school to go lengthy on it.
It brings to the final point. My family then – although strongly dominated and ran by women, is like society where patriarchy and its ideas of real and fake suffering do not seem to die away. There is real, suffering, “man” problems that involves “real” cancer from the poison of drinking and smoking, poison you have to take to remain hard man with the “real” sickness from the excess of life and the “real” bleeding from the wound of hard work or war. In Southern Europe, most still consider that a woman who drinks is not sexy because she does a “man thing”.
There are opposed to the “fake” problems of women and “sissy boys”. In France, how many times have I heard “Encore un truc de bonne femme!” – Yet another chick thing? Migraines, headaches, psychological troubles and diseases, heartaches, sadness, depression, melancholy, mania and addictions to something that does not poison the body (“truly addictive” science says). All of these diseases are always the core of eating disorders and are still “women problems”, excuses not to take responsibility, stupid reasons to get out of work and awful sex with bad husbands. They are not taken seriously and therefore are not discussed fairly.
It is changing of course but I am fat because “I am choosing to be”, I am making deliberate decisions everyday to let temptation win over me and give in to the easy run of life of gain without pain. So when I do feel peckish at 3pm and have some food, regardless of what it is, I should stop and inhale the smoke of my next of kin who is telling me off. But I don’t because I am very arsy, strong-minded person who likes to go against that kind of nonsense so I go and take the whole packet of biscuits instead of just one.